Thursday, February 05, 2009

“Bailout Request”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

The economic meltdown of 2008 was an event that shook America, and the world. It crumbled venerable institutions and sent politicians into a frenzy of damage assessment. Billions of dollars were pumped into our banks, with little oversight.

Meanwhile a lesser sum was afforded to the nation’s surviving automakers, to stall their slide toward ruin. Soon, the word ‘bailout’ became part of our modern vocabulary. The result has been mixed at best. While our moneychangers continue to teeter on the brink of collapse, citizen discontent has grown stronger. And no one seems able to predict how our carmakers will re-invent themselves for tomorrow.

Sadly, in this rush to avert disaster, other needy enterprises were forgotten. Because our domestic economy is diverse in nature, so also are its tribulations at this perilous moment in history. While the rescue is in progress, there are many other places to send aid and comfort. But making a value judgment about which sectors are more deserving than others is next to impossible. Jobs are needed everywhere.

For your inspection, here are a few more currently in need:


1. THE US POST OFFICE - Market conditions have not been kind to this dependable institution. Though the service has been able to transcend rain, heat, and gloom of night, budget deficits may hold the key to its demise. Last year, the Post Office recorded a $2.8 billion shortfall in revenue. Dire projections show that this may swell to $6 billion for the next year. As a partial remedy, Postmaster General John E. Potter has asked Congress to allow that mail deliveries be reduced to five days per week instead of six. Overall volume was down by more than nine billion items last year, the largest drop ever of customer use in postal history. Clearly, a delivery from Uncle Sam is needed to save this familiar part of American life.

2. DAILY NEWSPAPERS – The decline of print journalism has been thoroughly analyzed by experts and pundits across the nation. Ganett recently implemented a mass layoff for hundreds of employees in its community newspaper division. Even the venerable New York Times has been humbled by competitive forces. Many publications have reduced their staff in search of restored profitability, or tried to develop a useful Internet presence. Others have simply succumbed to fatigue. This is a noble tradition worthy of preservation. Herr Johannes Gutenberg would agree.

3. BROADCAST RADIO – Revenues have plummeted in this industry with competition from satellite providers and Internet sources capturing much of the market. Media giant Clear Channel recently eliminated nearly two thousand jobs, or nine percent of its national labor force. Cleveland radio personality Mike Trivisonno has been outspoken in advocating relief for the industry. “If the automakers deserve a bailout, then what about us?” he says. “Are our jobs any less important?”

4. TOBACCO – Anti-smoking measures across America have done much to advance the cause of clean air and better health. Yet the yield in economic terms has been devastating. Recently, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics classified tobacco production as one of our nation’s most rapidly declining industries. Political leaders have failed to recognize this unintended consequence of their actions. Help is needed from Washington now… to keep these jobs from going up in smoke!

5. BOOKSTORES – Once a meeting place for avid readers and intellectuals, these cultural outposts have dwindled in number since the advent of Internet technology. Independent book vendors from California to New York have closed their shops with frightening rapidity. Even the national chain Borders has run afoul of the market. A cash-infusion from the government would preserve these useful word-shops for future generations.

6. FILM PHOTOGRAPHY – Low cost, foreign-made digital cameras have become plentiful at every retailer across America. As a result, industry giant Kodak has eliminated 27,000 jobs in recent years, while reinventing itself as a 21st Century imaging company. This painful evolution may preserve its place in the market, but not without a harsh impact on unemployment figures. Fujifilm has admitted a similar slide in their worldwide business. Polaroid Corporation recently announced their intention to cease manufacturing film altogether. Without immediate federal aid, shutterbugs and professional lensmasters may find that photo film has disappeared, forever.

7. BAKERIES – Baking has been part of our culture since the days of George Washington and Ben Franklin. But industry trends have made the craft unprofitable and largely obsolete. Chain stores rarely offer ‘scratch’ products to their customers in the modern marketplace. Instead, frozen items made off-site are finished at the store level to trim costs and maximize profit. Apprentice bakers have declined in number, with potential job prospects disappearing. The specter of bland, mass-produced breads and pastries is looming over America. Only the power of our government can clear the national palate.

8. COMPUTERS – Technology companies have enjoyed a long period of sales growth and profitability. But with Microsoft planning to cut 5,000 jobs, this upward trend has reached its limit. It is the inevitability of market saturation in effect. Still, action from Capitol Hill could restore the lost luster of hi-tech components.

9. EYEGLASSES – Once a durable sector of the economy, manufacturers of prescription spectacles now face extinction because of laser surgery and the popularity of contact lenses. Big-name celebrities like Tiger Woods have helped accelerate this trend by promoting the use of LASIK techniques. Government aid could bring everything back into focus.

10. THE RECORD INDUSTRY – With sales of compact discs dropping steadily, the future of music as we have known it is in doubt. Internet ‘file trading’ has siphoned off revenue that used to sustain the business. The promotional value of being signed to a prominent label has been diminished as consumers have ditched their cumbersome CD collections. Modern buyers favor portable storage devices filled with downloaded tracks, and little else. The fanaticism of Beatles-era performers has all but vanished. Yet hope might reappear through a plug-in to federal aid. The rock could be made to roll, again!

The original bailout program endorsed by George W. Bush cost taxpayers $700 billion. President Obama’s ambitious stimulus plan is even more expensive. Both are strong remedies designed to strengthen the ailing economy. But neither measure seems likely to keep the nation from experiencing a painful period of recovery.

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